Complaint over Neshaminy mascot could move to court

    A mural of the Neshaminy High School mascot. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY)

    A mural of the Neshaminy High School mascot. (Eugene Sonn/WHYY)

    A Pennsylvania woman now has the option of suing a Bucks County school district for discrimination.

    Last September, Neshaminy High School parent Donna Boyle, who is part Native American, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission because she doesn’t want the school’s sports teams to continue being called the “Redskins.”

    Since the 11-member commission has investigated, but not acted on her complaint for a year, Boyle is now eligible to bring her case to court.

    It’s not a route she wants to take.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “I just want them to do the right thing and change the name. I’m not in it for some kind of capital gain,” said Boyle.

    The Neshaminy School District has defended the decades-old mascot many in the community say doesn’t degrade Native Americans, but honors them.

    When it comes to Boyle’s complaint, officials maintain that it has no merit because the mascot was not created to discriminate.

    “You have to show an intentional act,” said Michael Levin, counsel for the district.

    For Boyle’s complaint to move forward, the commission would have to call a public hearing. Then and only then can the body reach a decision that could lead to Neshaminy cutting ties with its mascot.

    It’s still unclear if or when a public hearing could be called.

    “We haven’t reached that phase in the case,” said committee spokeswoman Shannon Powers.

    The fate of Boyle’s case lingers as a group of Neshaminy students continue to battle the district over their decision last fall to ban “Redskins” from The Playwickian, Neshaminy High School’s student newspaper.

    In June, the school board passed a policy that bars the paper from keeping the word out of editorials. The paper can cut the word from articles.

    They argued that the law doesn’t allow one set of students to stop another set of students from expression, as long as the word “Redskins” was being used to refer to the mascot and not as a racial slur.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal